HEART OF PALM, (Grove Press, 2013)


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“Intelligence, heart, wit…Laura Lee Smith has all the tools and Heart of Palm is a very impressive first novel.” ~ Richard Russo, winner, 2002 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

“In the end — which comes with a delightful twist — the guilty pleasure of Heart of Palm is its steadfast tangle of rage and grief and love, a heaping dose of Southern soul with a whole lot of chutzpah thrown in.” ~ Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Heart of Palm is Smith’s first novel, and it’s a knockout…She’s a welcome addition to the ranks of Florida writers, and Heart of Palm is a fine, bittersweet taste of the Sunshine State.” — Tampa Bay Times.

Heart of Palm is a complex novel, finely developed with multifaceted characters…will stay with the reader long after turning the last page.” — New York Journal of Books.

“Reminiscent of the works of John Irving, with its close-knit but oddball family, weird tragedy at regular intervals, and its very dark sense of humor, this is an engrossing and enjoyable read. — Library Journal.

“…[an] unhurried family saga. Smith is a careful, detailed writer who assembles big, bold, well-drawn scenes–moments from the everyday lives of the Bravos that resonate with deeper insights into how personal regrets and longings shape the fates of all involved.” — Shelf Awareness.

“To match the expertly plotted…and tonally diverse…story, Smith’s prose fizzes with flavor…. It’s this artfully balanced mixture of creativity and craft that make Heart of Palm so undoubtedly rewarding.” — Book Reporter. Also see Q&A with Book Reporter’s Alexis Burling.

“Independence Day is a turning point for the Bravo family of small-town Utina on Florida’s Intracoastal Waterway. . . . The Bravos, once notorious Utina badasses, find their adult ties of guilt and regret beginning to frazzle as long-dormant resentments emerge. Smith’s debut novel exudes authenticity. . . . She turns a phrase with wit. . . . Writ[ten] with agility and empathy.”— Publishers Weekly.

“In a slowly, gently unfolding comedy of manners, Smith skillfully sets multiple stories in motion, most, it seems, designed to showcase the vanity of human wishes. Smith is a kind and understanding creator, and even the most venal of her characters, we see, is just trying to get by—and usually not succeeding. In the end, Smith overlaps territory John Sayles explored in Sunshine State, but with a more generous sense of our foibles. It’s a promising start—and a lot of fun.” — Kirkus Reviews.

“Heart of Palm is a beautifully written story, at times comical and crushingly sad.” — The Florida Book Review.

“I’ve just read Laura Lee Smith’s hefty, eager, and incandescent debut novel, Heart of Palm, and I can’t get the astonishing and benighted Bravos out of my head. And I don’t want to. What an extravagantly and engagingly flawed family this is! Smith is an enchanter casting her spell with lyrical prose, evocative details, and spellbinding characters. She explores familial chaos, reckless behavior, and hopeless love with grace, intelligence, and tenderness. She gives me what I long for in fiction: compassion and provocation. What talent, what nerve, what a wondrous and spellbinding story. Trust me, these Bravos will haunt your dreams.” — John Dufresne, author of Requiem, Mass.

“Laura Lee Smith masterfully creates a deep, compassionate, and often heartbreakingly funny portrait of a wild, complex Southern family on the brink of massive change while simultaneously rendering the ever-shifting identity of the New South, caught between pristine decay and the terrifying promises of development. Smith is a brilliant writer, and Heart of Palm brims with lush vitality, loss, and desire.” — Julianna Baggott, author of Pure and Girl Talk.

“I could feel the heat, the glare off the Intracoastal. Like a sandspur, Heart of Palm sticks with you, drawing blood.” — Rita Mae Brown, author of Southern Discomfort and Rubyfruit Jungle.

“From the lyrical opening that sets up this story, Laura Lee Smith’s voice moves to an earthy voice grounded in the tradition of our great yarn-spinners, giving us a Florida Cracker family saga rich in humor and vivid characters who are all-too-realistically violent, crazy, hilarious, big-hearted, and tragic. Heart of Palm is a heartily ambitious novel that’s also a real page-turner, a real story with real people in a place rendered in such palpable detail you feel you know it as well as the people who live there.” — Brad Watson, author of The Heaven of Mercury and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives.

Heart of Palm is a haunting tale of family, loss, love and deception that will stay with you long after you finish reading their tale. This is a wonderful debut novel not to be missed!” — Susan Schlesinger, Books on the Square, Providence, RI.

“I just finished Heart of Palm and absolutely loved it…The quote from Russo on the cover is a reminder of his writing but I must say, she is his equal.” — Gayle, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, AZ.

“Smith tells a moving story that twists and turns in unexpected ways.” — Book blogger ProtoLibro.

“[The Bravos] are both unique and ubiquitous: one of the greatest families I’ve read about in a long time…Laura Lee Smith has just joined the ranks of the best Southern Writers. Don’t miss this one.” — Book blogger Maurice on Books.

“If I were to recommend one book this year, it would be Heart of Palm.” — Book blogger CayoCosta.